Indigo & Dabu

From Indus Valley Civilization to the British Raj, Indigo's imperial acceptance has made it a craft in itself. The vibrant deep-blue dye is extracted from the plant family, indigofera tinctoria. A harvest of 200 kg leaves produces 1 kg indigo. During 1908, around 30,000 acres of land was engaged in the cultivation of indigo. The Calcutta (now Kolkata) port once shipped 4000 tons of indigo per year. Indigo is the oldest natural dye known to mankind, it can be used to dye any kind of fiber and it is a vital constituent to attain greens, purples and blacks; a universal and versatile dye. Currently only one family in India is engaged in indigo farming. The knowledge and traditions guarded since thousands of years can vanish at the blink of an eye.
Dabu is an age-old hand block printing technique. Like the craft, the raw materials too are timeless – mud and water. Replenished generously by nature, The art of mud resist block printing represents a mix of ethnic and nature-inspired designs, ranging from bootis (small motifs) and leaves to fruits, birds, geometrical and animal shapes.The patterns are traditional, handed down intact, over generations. The motifs are picked from nature and surrounding elements, and then crafted onto wooden blocks. The craftsmen dip the blocks into a viscous paste of mud, gum and lime. The method gets it’s name from the word ‘dabaana’, meaning ‘to press’. Stories of the earth and dye, rest safely in hands of the craftsmen.